Not For Everyone

Social Security Benefits Limited To Married Couples Who Live In A Marriage Equality State

A lot of the DOMA area barriers for married couples are falling, but not all of them. The federal government has decided to limit Social Security benefits to couples who live in states where marriage equality is legal. Married in Massachusetts but live in Pennsylvania? You’re out of luck.

The Social Security Administration had tried to trumpet the fact that it was starting to make benefits available to same-sex married couples. But the fine print is that eligibility for federal benefits depends upon the state in which you live. This was an issue identified immediately in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in June.

The problem — besides the unfairness of it all — is that the rest of the government isn’t so fussy. The State Department doesn’t care where you live if you and your spouse apply for a visa, and the Pentagon is actually considering leave for gay and lesbian military personnel to travel to get married so that they will be entitled to military spouse benefits no matter where they live. The Labor Department just extended Family and Medical Leave rights to same-sex married couples.

The difference is that the Social Security Administration is hampered by a statute that prevents it from unilaterally offering benefits to all couples. The only way to change the policy would be a legislative solution. Given the crazies in control in the House of Representatives, the odds of that are pretty slim. So, pick where you live carefully. In the case of your Social Security benefits, geography is destiny.